The quickest way to kill your marketing plan

So let’s say you get it all right. You’ve
worked diligently for some time to
put together what you think to be a great marketing program. You now have an
extensive marketing plan that you feel will
work, which includes great creative ideas
and a communications timeline. Your plan
is put together in a professional presentation, you have great visual images, a catchy
and compelling campaign, radio spots, TV
commercials, print ads, flyers, posters,
direct mailers, billboards and nifty promotional items. And you’re now ready to
reach out to your public…

Stop. Your plan may be flawlessly
designed, but are you truly prepared to
walk your talk? Have you consulted with
your staff and conducted essential internal
research to ensure your plan’s success?
Now you might say, “Malcolm, we don’t
need to do any of that touchy-feely stuff;
none of that matters. Our marketing plan is
perfect — and really ‘pops.’” I’m here to tell
you that, unfortunately, your plan is seriously flawed.

One of the biggest failures of a potentially successful marketing plan is neglecting
to consult with your internal customers,
conduct employee research or communicate the plan to your employees. Do your
employees have a copy of the plan? Did
they have input or help write it? Do they
know anything about the plan — better yet,
do they even care?

Chances are you probably guard this
“strategic information” like the Fort Knox
treasury. Don’t destroy yourself before you
even begin. You may have the external and
media touch points well addressed, but not
thoroughly addressing your internally
affected touch points is the express lane to
a business dead-end.

Every touch point to a customer or
potential customer matters — nothing matters more. What is a touch point?
Everything from the vocal inflection when
answering phones, office dcor, personalities, customer-centric attitudes and
actions, to the bathroom being cleaned —
and condition of the walkways and windows. Everything about your business is a
reflection of who and what you are as an
organization. The easiest way to blow a successful plan is to ignore some of these
minute details. On the other hand, fine-tuning and orchestrating those details help
take marketing — and your business — to
another level.

Get your left and right talking
Systematically address this internal marketing and alignment. Survey your internal
staff; talk to key players that deliver and
execute on the claims made in your marketing. Be sure to include all of your
employees. Dig a little deeper to see how
even staff who don’t interact with your customers make an impact on customer deliverables. You may be surprised to find just
how many ways that everything they do
can help (or hinder) your marketing
results. This process isn’t just about the
CEO’s opinion; it’s about everyone
involved in the day-to-day processes.
These are the people who are ultimately
responsible for your customer’s happiness.

Use their perspectives to better gauge the
approach that you want to take to satisfy
your customers. This is a formative
process that allows you to look at the company as a whole and pinpoint specific
pieces that allow you to figure out the company’s best alignment to deliver what is
called your “brand promise.”

Shared vision
Do all of the employees know the 2007
goals? It’s the CEO’s job to set the vision,
and share the goals. Creating the goals of
the company and having a great marketing
plan are useless in your desk drawer or
attracting dust on the bookshelf. In fact,
your plan should reflect the goals and
vision of the company and be integrated
into the daily tasks throughout the ranks.

In order to achieve a goal, you have to put
some effort into it. Simply setting goals is
not enough. The goals should be acknowledged and shared with everyone in order
to achieve them. In addition to the overall
goals of the company, each employee
should have a record of their goals and
objectives to check frequently and make
sure that they are on the right track.
Everyone is accountable.

Once you’ve been able to share and align
your vision, goals and infrastructure, your
brand delivery will be turbocharged and
your marketing plan destined for success.
Taking these steps will allow everyone to
get a better grasp on your company’s direction and help motivate your employees to
better address the expectations of your
customers. It’s not just about having good
ideas, it’s what you do with them that matters. We’re only two months into the year,
so it’s not too late to take out your marketing plan from the desk drawer and start
using it.

MALCOLM TEASDALE is the principal and “Big Idea Catalyst”
of Teasdale Worldwide, a strategic marketing firm headquartered
in Tampa, Fla. Reach him at [email protected]
To obtain a new direction, increase revenue, and the expertise to
facilitate your customers UBAs, call Kathi Kasel at (813) 868-1520 or e-mail [email protected] To view additional articles, register at

Marketing muscles

Name recognition is critical to a company’s success, and having Arnold Schwarzenegger associated with your company certainly helps increase the odds that people know its name.

At Global Fitness Holdings LLC, growing that name and brand recognition is the task Royce Pulliam faces every time the company opens a Gold’s Gym in a new market.
“If you took a look at our industry, on a global picture, and you took one out of every 10 people who are familiar with fitness
and you did a brand awareness test, Gold’s Gym wins by 70 percent brand recognition,” says the CEO and founder of Global
Fitness Holdings, which owns the Gold’s Gym franchising rights for Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

Pulliam will be spreading the gym’s recognition through its new location slated to open early this year at Westlake’s Crocker
Park and at future spots in Rocky River and Legacy Village.
“Typically, when we go in and do marketing, we have a really professionally designed component trailer,” he says. “It’s kind of
a modular. We’ll have the public come in during construction, four months out from opening, and we’ll do this big blitz. We’ll let
people know that we are coming, and this is what we do.”

Although Gold’s association with Schwarzenegger may conjure up certain images about the gym’s customers, Pulliam markets
his franchises as a family-oriented place to exercise.
“There’s much more awareness on fitness for kids and child obesity,” he says. “People are paying a lot more attention to that,
especially at the club level. We’re adding a lot more programs and equipment to become more of a full-service solution for all the
“There’s a lot of glitz and glamour and amenities for people, a lot of energy and high-tech stuff to keep it fresh,” he says.

As the number of locations grows, Pulliam believes in studying each location carefully before and during the negotiation
“We do a lot of diligence,” he says. “We investigate and spend a lot of time on every site and through demographic studies. It’s endless, time and time again, until we buy property.”

While it’s important to stay true to your business model, Pulliam says it is also all right to step a little outside the box.

“We’ve done some projects where we’ve tied in retail, an office component, some mixed-use instead of a stand-alone gym,”
he says.

Pulliam says management should never be so confident in a company’s success that it forgets the basics. To continue to
have a strong brand in any market or business, no matter what you do, you make a marketing and advertising budget a priority, he says.
“Keep the brand out there and keep it fresh and have new promotions tied to it,” he says. “I don’t think we step back and
smell the roses. When you are growing your company, it’s not time to pat yourself on the back.”

HOW TO REACH: Global Fitness Holdings, (859) 281-5110

Designed for success

The design of your office space isn’t just about showing off to visitors. According to Debbie McCann, principal of Vocon, the way an office is set up is a key in attracting and keeping employees.

McCann and another person started Vocon in 1988 as an interior architecture firm. Since then, it has expanded into all facets of architecture and design, and has grown to 51 employees.

“It’s hard to get employees, and it’s hard to retain employees,” McCann says. “So what we are saying to folks is, ‘Your lease is coming due in a year-and-a-half. You need to look at ways to create more of a brand for your company, as opposed to just building office space, and create a culture that helps you attract and retain employees.’

“It’s not limited to just the young folks anymore. Everybody is looking for a culture that promotes the team.”

One idea for improving an office setting is to have a caf instead of a traditional lunch room, McCann says.

“You wouldn’t believe how many people say, ‘I don’t want a caf. It’s not productive,’” she says. “Yes, it is productive. Your folks aren’t walking downstairs or next door or over two blocks to get a cup of coffee. They actually feel that they have gone to a space different than their office, which is 30 seconds from where they sit. They can actually sit down in that space.”

McCann said Vocon’s caf helps foster relationships.

“I don’t have a door on my office and I am 25 feet from our caf,” she says. “People ask, ‘Isn’t it bothersome that folks are sitting there all day long chatting and talking?’

“It isn’t. If I see someone I need to talk to, they are right there. And it promotes that whole feeling of team and openness within an organization.

“We have meetings in our caf. We don’t just use it for lunch. All day long, when I need to talk to somebody, I’ll walk right out there, they’ll grab a Diet Coke and you sit down and you can really get to know somebody in a more casual environment than locking yourself into a traditional conference room.”

The wrong office set-up can hinder communications among employees.

“That means no cross-marketing is going on,” she says. “You may have a client that’s come to you for PR, but that PR team isn’t saying, ‘By the way, we can do your advertising.’ By changing the culture, you also promote more collaboration, promote cross-marketing, which in today’s market is critical.”

But McCann warns that no matter how good your intentions, there will still be someone complaining.

“When you are trying to change or alter culture in any environment, there’s always a level of stress because you’re never going to be able to satisfy everybody,” McCann says. “Part of our job is to find that zone where you to try to listen to everyone and come up with a solution that touches the masses.

“You’ll never please everybody, but, in general, you try to push an organization as far as you can without upsetting their core business.”


Securing the future

Every book on success in the business world comes down to one basic tenet: supply good service. But that is often easier said than done.

“You want to be successful in today’s marketplace; (and) whether you’re selling widgets or zippers, you just need to have service,” says Peter Miragliotta, CEO of security company Tenable Protective Services.

Miragliotta’s approach to service has enabled the Cleveland-based company to grow revenue from $870,000 to more than $17 million in the last 13 years. The company has also opened offices in Akron, Toledo, Cincinnati, Columbus and Detroit.

Tenable Protective Services provides security and guest services for Cleveland Browns Stadium, among other clients, and in April it was awarded a contract with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Here Miragliotta shares the business techniques and ideas that have enabled his success.

Treat every client like it is your best client.

Treating clients equally is a great way to build loyalty, especially with smaller clients who may have felt snubbed by other vendors in the past.

“Whether we’re doing eight hours of security or we’re providing 1,000 hours worth of ushers, everyone is our No. 1 client,” Miragliotta says. “Nobody gets slighted. My management knows to take care of all of them equally, to the best of our ability.”

Listen and communicate. “As we went around and listened to (new clients), we kept getting (told) this same thing that basically companies were telling them what they needed, instead of asking them and working with them,” Miragliotta says. “Our management have learned to sit there and ask the client what they want, and then we know that we need to adapt.”

This doesn’t mean you can’t offer guidance or suggestions, but you need to ask lots of questions to determine what’s going to make your client happy.

“It’s communication, both on the top end and on the bottom end with your client to find out exactly what the expectations of your client are and where they see things and where their priorities are,” he says. “Then communicate that to your work force and say, ‘Look, this is what’s important to our client. This is why.’”

Offer customized solutions. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to service. You’ve got to be prepared to offer each client a specialized plan that’s customized to their needs.

“In Cleveland, the way we handle a rib cook-off will be different from the way a promoter may want something at the IX Center,” he says. “At the IX Center, all those shows have a different promoter, and each one of those promoters all have a different priority system.”

Here’s your opportunity to offer suggestions. For example, Tenable worked with the Browns to come up with a wheelchair response team. When patrons in need of assistance get to the gate, someone is dispatched with a wheelchair to assist them in getting to their seat.

It’s a simple premise that requires little additional effort on the part of Tenable, but the idea was received with delight, Miragliotta says.

Be accessible. People are tired of calling a company with questions or concerns and speaking to a machine or not getting the immediate help they need. That’s why Miragliotta gives every client his personal cell phone number.

“If you’ve got a problem and it’s not resolved within my chain of command, I’ll be here,” he says. “It might take me a day a two, but I’ll get in front of you and you can tee off on me if you need to. By my senior staff members and my junior and mid-level staff managers knowing that, that sparks them to answer our clients’ questions.”

HOW TO REACH: Tenable Protective Services, (877) 836-2253

10 tips on branding

  • Focus on what your business achieves for its customers. Your brand is no good to you if it isn’t delivering what customers want.


  • Take ownership of your brand. Pay attention to customers’ needs, but you should still control what you want your brand to mean to them.


  • Be honest. If you don’t believe in your brand, no one else will.


  • Keep your brand simple. Focus on a small number of key brand values.


  • Be consistent. Every aspect of your business should make customers feel the same way about you.


  • Be thorough. Look at all your systems to make sure they help to support your brand.


  • Involve employees. Make sure they understand your brand and believe in it.


  • Communicate your brand. Make sure every advertisement, brochure and letter helps reinforce the same message. If you have a logo, use it everywhere.


  • Meet and exceed what your brand promises. Failing just once will damage your brand.


  • Manage your brand. Continually look for opportunities to make improvements. And don’t be afraid to make changes to reflect shifts in the way you do business or new trends in your market.


In tune

Any good businessperson knows that to be successful, you have to continually reinvent yourself.

The head of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra realized this last year when the organization embarked on a rebranding campaign.

“As much as we’re known, we’re still a young company,” says Cleveland Pops Executive Director Shirley Morgenstern. “We want to look out to a new audience. We wanted to get a fresher, edgier look. We want to help audiences know what pops music is.”

The Cleveland Pops is targeting people between the ages of 30 and 50 because its most frequent patrons — those of retirement age — won’t be around forever. The organization is reaching out to the next generation to change the image many people have of going to a concert.

“So many young people think that going to a concert is going to be very stuffy, and you have to get all dressed up and it’s not fun,” Morgenstern says. “And that’s not what pops music is about.”

But while a rebranding can be extremely beneficial for a company, it’s not something the leader can usually do alone, says Morgenstern. In her case, she had a wealth of resources within her board members, including people from both the advertising and marketing worlds to help. And if you don’t have a board of trustees, it’s critical to get help wherever possible, even if that means hiring a consultant.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether you can pay for it or whether you can get people that are knowledgeable,” Morgenstern says. “Surround yourself with people that know more than you know. No one knows everything, and you need fresh eyes, a fresh look.”

Not only does the process require lots of heads, it takes a lot of time and effort ,as well. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a new brand or company image can’t be developed and implemented overnight.

“We didn’t just snap our fingers and make a decision,” says Morgenstern. “There was a lot of hours put in. There was a lot of discussions. There was a lot of research in what we wanted to do, why we want to do it.

“We did the same thing you do in strategic planning. You look at what you have. You look at the logo. You decide who our audience has been in the past, who our audience is now, what our demographics are. Then we look at where we want to go. And then we discussed how to reach out to the people that don’t know who we are.”

Morgenstern and her team went through 200 to 300 slogans before deciding on “Music and fun for everyone.”

They also had to pick from among 30 logos designed by marketing director Gordon Petitt. They whittled the choices down from 10 to five to three before eventually voting on the final version.

The point, she says, is that it takes a lot of discussion and collaboration to find the best option.

Morgenstern hopes the Cleveland Pops’ new slogan and logo and more cohesive overall marketing strategy will continue to draw people to concerts and events, with the goal of increasing its annual budget from $800,000 to more than $1 million.

HOW TO REACH: Cleveland Pops Orchestra,

Teaming up

ICS Garland Inc. was looking to reconnect with its customers in 2003 when it started a newsletter for past customers. But much to the dismay of Ken Hughes, president of the flooring manufacturer and installation company, a large stack of them came back in the mail marked “Return to Sender.”

“All of a sudden it became very apparent that we were just losing touch with our end users,” says Hughes. “Our database had basically diminished because we weren’t selling to (home and business owners) anymore. We were selling through our contractors. … And so there was kind of a big wakeup call as to, ‘Well, how the heck are we going to market to our customers if we don’t know who they are?’”

For years, instead of focusing on the end-user consumer, the company had focused on forming allegiances with contractors around the country who might use Garland flooring in their jobs. Now the company needed a way to leverage those relationships with contractors to get better access to and more familiar with the consumer. But Hughes hit another hurdle.

“They were their customers, as they saw it, even though they may have been putting our floors in,” says Hughes. “It became very apparent to us that we had to do something to … allow them to share (their customer) lists with us, and to do so, there had to be a reason why you’d do it. This is when we came up with what we called our cooperative marketing program.”

With the help of Felber & Felber Marketing, the company developed a program called “Garland By” that would enable Garland to co-brand with contractors and installers across the country. Everything would be branded with “Garland By,” followed by the contractor’s name.

“Because they run an independent business and we run an independent business, when it comes to really branding our company and theirs, we’re really in competition,” says Hughes. “Locally, they want to get their name out there, and as well, we want our name out there nationally. So we felt that if we co-branded, did everything with a Garland By — Garland By the contractor’s name — we would … no longer be in competition, but it would be cooperative.”

And Hughes had a winning plan to get contractors on board. For participating, Garland would provide each company with myriad marketing materials, including printed materials such as brochures and direct-mail pieces with both companies’ names on them; public relations, trade show and inside sales support; promotional items such as polo shirts, hats and golf balls; and a personalized, co-branded Web site. The kicker was that these companies would only have to pay a fraction of the marketing cost in exchange for sharing their customer lists.

“What we wanted to do was take our expertise on the marketing side and help our contractors, who really don’t spend a whole heck of a lot of money in marketing,” says Hughes. “What we tried to explain to them is that Garland spends about 6 percent to 7 percent of their total sales dollar toward marketing. A service business would never put as much into it as that, but even if we just could get them to use 1 percent of their total sales volume, that would be a good thing.”

The program has allowed Garland to build on the local reputation of each contractor or installer to gain national recognition and reconnect with consumers. Meanwhile, local contracting businesses are seeing booming business from the increased marketing, which assures their loyalty to Garland and keeps their discretionary business coming Garland’s way.

HOW TO REACH: ICS Garland Inc.,

The answer lies within

Jim Hill realized that the key to Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP’s growth wasn’t necessarily acquiring more clients, it was finding a way to do more for the clients he and the firm already had.

“As clients get larger … they have all sorts of different arms, which you as the corporate finance lawyer might not be thinking about,” says Hill, managing partner of the 140-attorney firm. “Start trying to create relationships with some of the other individuals within that client who are in different areas of the business.”

For example, a client for whom you handle tax planning may also need help with employment law or intellectual property law.

“If I’m a corporate finance attorney, my likelihood of going out to lunch with the woman who’s head of HR may be fairly remote,” says Hill. “However, if I start thinking about and talking to the principals about, ‘OK, well, who does your employment law work?’ or, ‘You should know more about our employment law work’ … they begin to not have 14 different law firms but maybe three or four, and maybe ultimately one or two.”

This kind of business development approach is a win-win for both the service provider and the client, says Hill.

“Nobody of those 14 [other firms], with rare exception, has a real understanding of your total business,” says Hill, a fact that he points out to clients looking to consolidate service providers. “And there’s no real consistency between what one firm does and what another firm does.”

Hill says this targeted approach can be applied to any professional service firm, especially those whose employees have individual goals and who aren’t working as effectively as they could be as a team. It’s a matter of getting employees to change the tunnel-like vision they often work with and stop concentrating on how just their specialty can help their company.

“There’s statistics that really show dramatically how much more effective account management is with a team versus people hoarding (clients),” says Hill. “The profitability of firms that actually do this kind of team account management are so significantly higher than firms that still have four or five rainmakers who hoard the clients and say, ‘These are my clients, and you can work on them, but don’t ever think about getting too close to them.’”

It’s also a great tool for customer retention, because clients aren’t looking at one lawyer or one sales representative as the sole person in the company they should be dealing with.

“Over time, you develop a stronger bond, they know more of your people,” says Hill. “So if Jim Hill got hit by a bus or Jim Hill left to go to another law firm, there still are other relationships within the firm that may very well keep that client at the firm versus just packing up his business and going somewhere else.”

This business approach also has allowed employees at Benesch to gain confidence in their ability to create business relationships for the firm.

“It’s more comfortable because you may be initiating a relationship with the head of HR, but you already know there’s a lot of people (at your company) who know people within that organization,” says Hill. “So, you’re not just calling somebody up out of the blue who doesn’t know you or your firm from Adam and saying, ‘Why don’t you come out to lunch with me and I’ll tell you all about our employment law practices.’”

HOW TO REACH: Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP,

Wordly approach

After establishing a strong U.S. market presence, Ultra Electronics Audiopack was looking for new ways to expand its customer base.

It found the answer in international markets.

“Our focus is design and production of communication products for harsh environments,” says Jon Adams, president of Garfield-Heights based Ultra Electronics Audiopack. “Our goal from the outset was to be the world leader in that niche. We started with that goal, and we always wanted to look internationally.”

Adams began searching for potential customers in overseas markets, targeting customer bases similar to those it markets to in the United States, including firefighters, HAZMAT crews and other first responders.

“We began to understand the key players in our market worldwide by attending trade shows, by reading periodicals, by talking with distributors in our field,” he says. “We looked at the competitive landscape worldwide. You want to verify that the product you have is of interest to someone. You want to identify potential customers and visit those customers to validate the interest in your product, and it starts to build relationships. If you have a customer that is really interested in what you have, they will often help you out through the build-up phase.

“We identified potential customers in Europe and then in Asia, and then began to reach out to those potential customers to show them products we had designed and understand their needs.”

That outreach enables companies to identify what elements of their products will be successful and what elements might need modifications or improvements to make the product more marketable or conform to international regulations, he says.

“The certifications in both Asia and Europe differ slightly from the U.S.,” says Adams. “We had to learn how to design products to meet international product certifications for the markets we serve.”

Because of the nature of the company’s products, Ultra Electronics Audiopack had to take a hands-on marketing strategy and work closely with sales agents and distributors as well as directly with customers.

“We’re not really selling a consumer product,” says Adams, “so it’s much more directive to us to make sales calls, demonstrate products and work more directly with products internationally.”

Adams says company leaders also should look at ways to work with competitors who already have a strong stake in the market they want to enter, especially if their products complement each other. For example, Ultra Electronics Audiopack has had success selling in Japan through Kawasaki, the largest supplier of self-contained breathing apparatuses to the fire service in Asia. Ultra Electronics Audiopack makes a heads-up display that integrates with Kawasaki’s apparatus and tells firefighters how much air is left in their tanks.

“This was a technology that we had already developed,” Adams says. “So we took that technology to potential users worldwide. I think to the extent we can cooperate, then there’s mutual benefit working with competitors.”

The company has also had success in Italy, France, Singapore and Norway.

“I think there’s more resistance to sourcing products from that kind of distance than I had originally thought,” he says. “A big part of what we have had to do is find ways to minimize the perceived risk. Part of it is building the relationship, which happens over time. Part of it is having a good reputation and an innovative product that they can’t get elsewhere.”

HOW TO REACH: Ultra Electronics Audiopack, or (216) 332-7040

Street smarts

As a top five producer of traffic control signs in the United States, Signs & Blanks Ltd. of Akron was no struggling venture. But that didn’t stop president Rick Pollock from looking for new ways to expand the business after he acquired it from his father last January.

“The traffic control industry is very cyclical,” says Pollock. “During the winter and certain times of year, it slows down. So we were looking for a way to smooth out the peaks and valleys of our business by offering broader products.”

Since 1989, Signs & Blanks has manufactured finished road signs and aluminum sign blanks for customers ranging from government agencies to private individuals, with an expertise in road, street, and construction and school zone signs. But Pollock thought expanding its marketing offered an opportunity for growth.

“One of the first things we did is we got into doing reflective real estate signs because they offer the Realtor visibility at night,” says Pollock. “What we’ve found is anybody is a potential customer now, whether it’s real estate, construction, contractors, retail stores or restaurants.”

Signs & Blanks invested in a new printer that allowed it to digitally print Realtors’ pictures on signs. Pollock also hired a graphic designer, which reassured businesses of a quality product and allowed companies without their own artwork to have something custom-designed.

“For this company, I’d say (the investment) was pretty significant,” says Pollock. “But I’m happy to say it looks like we’re getting an adequate return for what we’ve put into it.”

As a result of the investment, Pollock expects 8 percent growth in revenue this year.

The company also began marketing to other sign shops, offering aluminum blanks they could finish themselves or finished ones they could resell. The process mirrors its arrangement with smaller municipalities and townships that prefer to purchase unfinished signs so that a local sign business can profit from finishing them.

Pollock says direct mail, and phone and print marketing, in addition to networking, have been key components of his marketing strategy.

“We’ve joined a couple of the local chambers of commerce and also done some donations of signs and banners to try and get our name out,” Pollock says.

Signs & Blanks has also built on its reputation in the traffic sign business to spread into new markets. In its brochures and marketing literature, it has stressed its experience with high-quality materials and attention to detail, hoping customers will recognize a distinct value in its product.

“If you’re able to use techniques or your area of expertise as a springboard for future growth, you have a higher opportunity for success,” says Pollock.

Based on his previous success in expanding markets, the company is now looking to take the expansion a step further — Signs & Blanks has started selling trade show displays and expects that to be another potential growth area in 2006.

HOW TO REACH: Signs & Blanks Ltd., (330) 630-0773 or